Build-up to the Crucible – “The Break” Eurosport potcast

Eurosport is back with “the Break”

You can listen to the last instalment here:

 

And here is the written account about it what Ronnie thinks about the possible Crucible favourites and his own game:

 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP -‘HE’S LIKE A MICHEL ROUX CAKE’ – RONNIE O’SULLIVAN ON ‘FRIGHTENING’ ROBERTSON

His game is built to do well in Sheffield and over the years he’s added to his game and now he’s taken over from John Higgins as the player with the best all-around game. He plays safety very well, his temperament is brilliant, his scoring is unbelievable, his potting is just frightening, I’ve never seen anyone with a cue action as good as that.

Ronnie O’Sullivan is in a relaxed mood ahead of the defence of his World Championship title, but believes Neil Robertson is the biggest obstacle to him winning at the Crucible for a seventh time.

The 45-year-old ended a seven-year wait for a sixth world title when beating Kyren Wilson in the final, but he has not won an event since that victory in August.
O’Sullivan has lost five successive finals, the most recent being at the hands of Neil Robertson in the Tour Championship.

He was comfortably second best to Robertson at Celtic Manor, and feels the Australian is favourite for the World Championship which gets underway on April 17.

What happens at Sheffield is that when you get on a good run you seem to just win matches every year,” O’Sullivan said on Eurosport’s The Break podcast.

It comes like a run in itself but then it can go the other way as well.

I think [John] Higgins didn’t make a quarter-final for seven or eight years. You could have got any price you want down the bookies on that. I did the same from 2013 to 2021, I didn’t make a semi-final.

Robertson is the same. I think every player goes through a little phase like that in their career at Sheffield where they just don’t seem to be able to make the final stages.

I think at some point that will change for Neil and when it does I think you’ll see him win one, get to a final, maybe three finals on the spin.

His game is built to do well in Sheffield and over the years he’s added to his game and now he’s taken over from John Higgins as the player with the best all-around game. He plays safety very well, his temperament is brilliant, his scoring is unbelievable, his potting is just frightening, I’ve never seen anyone with a cue action as good as that.

SO, IF YOU’RE MAKING A CAKE AND PUTTING ALL THAT INTO IT YOU’RE GOING TO COME OUT WITH A ‘MICHEL ROUX’ CAKE AND THINK, ‘WOW, THAT TASTES AMAZING’.

O’Sullivan has shown patches of brilliance this season, but has not found form in the finals he has contested.

I’m not nervous at all,” he said. “I’ve had a great season. I’ve enjoyed playing. Everything is really good.

I go to a tournament like ‘have I got my running boots with me? Yeah OK great. Have I got my restaurants sorted? Yeah, great.

I CAN DEAL WITH THE SNOOKER, WHATEVER IT THROWS AT ME I’M ALRIGHT BECAUSE I’VE GOT THOSE TWO THINGS IN PLACE SO THE SNOOKER BECOMES SOMETHING I JUST DO BECAUSE I’M THERE. IF I PLAY GREAT, BRILLIANT!

I’m super-enthusiastic about playing, and continuing, and trying to go as far as I can in the tournament.

If I’m not playing great, I know I’m not a grinder and there’s no point me doing what Jimmy [White] seems to be doing which is trying to grind it out, take my time, get focused and over-practice.

You won’t see me on the practice tables before a match ever because I don’t want to know how I’m playing ten minutes before I go out there. I’d rather find out when I’m there.

With that kind of attitude, it’s a lot easier to deal with because otherwise it becomes tough. It’s a tough sport anyway so you have to find that happy medium.

I feel alright to be honest with you. It’s no secret; it’s not my favourite tournament. Last year it was a bit better because there was not so much smothering going on. So I enjoyed last year and this year has been OK. I’m looking forward to Sheffield but also looking forward to a bit of a break at the end of it.”

Commenting on the state of his game heading into the Crucible, O’Sullivan said: “I came back in the New Year, I took three or four weeks off after that, and I’ve enjoyed my snooker up until the Welsh [Open] when [John] Higgins gave me a good hiding.

But I’ve enjoyed the best of three tournaments, I’ve enjoyed playing and just seeing where my game’s at. Every tournament hasn’t been about winning it’s been about ‘where’s my game now compared to last week?’ ‘I’ve taken three weeks off now, I wonder where it is compared to three weeks ago. OK not too bad.’

SO BECAUSE I WAS PLAYING A BIT MORE REGULARLY I WASN’T AT AS MUCH OF A DISADVANTAGE WHEN I WAS PLAYING. BEFORE I’D TAKE SIX OR SEVEN WEEKS OFF AND MISS SIX OR SEVEN TOURNAMENTS. WHEN I DID COME BACK IT TOOK ME THREE OR FOUR TOURNAMENTS TO EVEN HAVE A CHANCE TO COMPETE REALLY.

It’s been a nice year in a way because I feel like I’ve had half a chance when I’ve played.

Ronnie also gives his opinion on the Jimmy White vs Stephen Hendry match. It was a horrible draw for Jimmy who puts too much pressure of himself, as Stephen Hendy himself reckons.

And a bit of video…

Ronnie discusses why snooker players are particularly exposed to depression

In an exclusive interview with Desmond Kane, Ronnie explains why snooker players are particularly exposed to depression, how to manage it and about his desire to help others.

RONNIE O’SULLIVAN EXCLUSIVE: ‘CAN YOU JUSTIFY FEELING LIKE S***?’ – WHY DEPRESSION STALKS SNOOKER

World champion Ronnie O’Sullivan is keen to help snooker confront its mental health malady during the UK’s third national lockdown. O’Sullivan has battled depression throughout his life and is not surprised to discover a number of players opening up about their own experiences of the illness during such a bleak time for society.

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BY DESMOND KANE

Amid potting black balls, the black dog of depression is never far from the darkened domains of the professional snooker table. During the global coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing onset of a third national lockdown in the UK prior to Christmas, the old green baize has been disturbed by some despairing comments from some of its leading figures about a familiar incurable gloom affecting the human condition.

Former world champions Mark Selby and Shaun Murphy and world semi-finalist Gary Wilson have all opened up in recent weeks about a sense of personal despair blighting their mental health.

Their revelations come after the former German Masters winner Martin Gould – who lost 9-8 to Selby in an epic European Masters final in September – explained how he almost quit the sport before the UK’s first lockdown last March after seeking medical help because “I felt mentally and physically drained” in fighting his inner turmoil.

Selby revealed during the Masters that he contemplated suicide as a teenager after the premature death of his father David when he was only 16. He continues to take medication to help him cope.

“When people are going through depression it’s very tough and times like this don’t make it any easier because you’re locked in your house and you have so much time to think about stuff,” said the former world number one in an interview with Eurosport.

Ronnie O’Sullivan has always spoken openly and candidly about the importance of mental health and physical well-being having faced bigger challenges in confronting himself than any opponent he has met during a gilded 29-year career that brought him a sixth world title last August.

Ronnie about depression tweet

He is keen to use his own personal experience of anguish by providing help, support and advice on the best way to cope with the illness via his social media platforms.

“I thought can we do some stuff to help people by putting a few videos online,” said O’Sullivan. “Just all sorts of stuff and we’re looking to produce a lot more content and channel it into a certain area where I have an interest.

“If you feel like you can help someone, it’s great you can do it from a point of view where I can actually enjoy it and have something to give back.

“I understand a bit about that side of mental health if you like, and that is definitely something I’m passionate about.

I DON’T THINK IT’S HEALTHY TO BE IN A ROOM HITTING BALLS FOR FOUR, FIVE AND SIX HOURS. THAT’S WHAT SNOOKER PLAYERS GENERALLY DO.

“Most people go down the club, have a laugh and chat with their mates while they are playing, but when it becomes a job you don’t talk.

“You just keep quiet, concentrate and stay in that bubble for as long as you can. I just think that’s not healthy in general to do that day in, day out.”

O’Sullivan checked into a hospital for several days in 2016 suffering from exhaustion after lashing out in a dressing room after a 10-7 win over David Gilbert in the first round of the World Championship.

The record 37-times ranking event winner is not alone in suffering the loneliness of the long-distance potter. It is an affliction the game’s greatest player has described as “snooker depression” during a gloriously successful but wildly undulating rise to the summit of his sport. It is an ailment which is instantly recognisable to several of his fellow professionals.

“I’ve got no motivation to play snooker, to get out of bed, I’m struggling to see a purpose or an end goal,” said the 2019 world semi-finalist Gary Wilson during the Championship League earlier this month. “I don’t know what the experts would say, but it sounds like depression and that’s what I’ve been going through.”

Apart from the World Championship in Sheffield last August, snooker has been shunted behind closed doors at the Marshall Arena next to the MK Dons football ground.

Murphy, the 2005 world champion, admits the lockdown took a heavy toll on him as he battled weight gain without the oxygen of his daily practice routine from a sport that has found itself marooned in Milton Keynes to enable players to earn a living amid constant Covid-19 testing and isolating in hotel rooms since last June.

“When we did return, we were trapped in a hotel in Milton Keynes, I just really struggled with it. I didn’t go and see a doctor or anything, but I would say I was borderline suffering with depression really. I was very low,” he said.

O’Sullivan enjoys running for fun to keep his mental compass pointing in the right direction, but feels the solitary existence of a snooker player is detrimental to achieving harmony away from the table.

“At least in football, you have your mates to lean on,” commented O’Sullivan. “They know when you are not having a good time and know what to say to pick you up.

“In some team sports, they actively seek out different players because everyone complements each other, but in snooker you don’t get that.

“Even in golf, you get to have a caddie and if you choose the right person, they can have an influence on how your mental state is and how your mood is.
“In snooker, you don’t get that, so that is why I find it really challenging.

FOR A LOT OF THE SNOOKER PLAYERS, I CAN UNDERSTAND THE PROBLEMS BECAUSE IT’S NOT THE HEALTHIEST OF WAYS TO SPEND YOUR TIME. I’VE HAD TO MELLOW A BIT TO KEEP PLAYING AND BECOME A BIT PHILOSOPHICAL TO KEEP MY SANITY, BUT NOT EVERYBODY IS IN THAT BOAT.”

O’Sullivan admits in the past he would accept a low mental state as a natural by-product of his desire to win trophies, but believes he has had to curtail his own expectations to cope.

He has been helped by the sports psychiatrist Steve Peters since 2011, winning three of his six world titles over the past decade after working closely with the Middlesbrough-born professor, author of the 2012 book The Chimp Paradox, which has sold over one million copies.

The toughest frame in snooker appears to be building a positive frame of mind that can buffet the mental storms that rage. Sportsmen should not define themselves by material success in their respective fields.

Are you a positive person who can motivate others?” said Peters. “Are you kind? Do you have integrity? If you are measuring success against your values – rather than what car you own or how much you earn – then building self-esteem is in your own hands.”

O’Sullivan feels that not every player can treat success and failure the same in trying to justify their self-worth to the wider world.

“Everybody is at different stages of their careers,” he explained. “When you are in your pomp, and getting victories, trophies and are at number one you don’t mind taking the snooker depression because you think I’m getting rewarded for it.

BUT IF YOU ARE PUTTING THAT EFFORT IN AND AREN’T GETTING ANYTHING BACK, GETTING BEATEN IN THE FIRST, SECOND AND THIRD ROUNDS ALL THE TIME, AND IT’S STILL LEAVING YOU FEELING LIKE S***, IT’S A LOT HARDER TO TAKE AND HANDLE.

“So what you do? Do you become philosophical? So it’s like a self-preservation thing, but with that you probably lose that intensity.

“Rather than play with the attitude it’s life-and-death, you think if you win, you win, if you lose, you lose, it doesn’t really matter.

“But then if you don’t play with the attitude that it’s life-and-death, are you really committed to wanting it as bad as the other guy, possibly?

IF SOMETHING IS HURTING BAD, AS LONG AS THE REWARD IS GOOD ENOUGH, I DON’T MIND HURTING, BUT AS LONG AS THE REWARD DOESN’T JUSTIFY THE HURT, YOU THINK, ‘HOLD ON, I’M NOT UTILISING MY TIME IN THE RIGHT WAY’.

“For me, I’ve had to get a bit more philosophical because I’m not winning as much as I used to. Why would I want to hurt after putting all that effort in? It’s all about getting the right balance really and how to approach it.”

O’Sullivan has consulted the six-times world champion Steve Davis on how he managed to cope with the perception of failure when Stephen Hendry usurped him as snooker’s dominant force in the 1990s.

Davis recovered from trailing O’Sullivan 8-4 to lift his third Masters in 1997, but the last of his 28 ranking event victories came two years earlier at the 1995 Welsh Open, 21 years before he retired from playing the sport.

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“When I spoke to Davis, he said to me once the 10 years when Hendry came on the scene and began dominating were the worst 10 years of his life because he was trying to find a way to compete with Hendry,” said O’Sullivan.

“It took him 10 years to finally give up, and I think once he gave up in his mind, he started to enjoy it again.

“He would turn up, hit a few balls, get the odd result and win a tournament. He was just as happy with his defeats as he was with his wins. You end up not getting as disappointed if you lose, but don’t get as excited when you win.

“You flick that switch off. You detach emotionally from wanting it so bad. By doing that, you don’t get fired up like you used to which is like a self-preservation thing. You don’t get the joys of winning.

WHEN I WON THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP, I WASN’T OVER THE MOON. I THOUGHT, ‘OKAY, THAT WAS NICE, I’VE SURPRISED MYSELF,’ BUT IT WASN’T LIKE THE OTHER FIVE TIMES WHEN I WANTED IT SO BADLY.

“It’s a really fine line to work out what approach you take to it.”

Desmond Kane

WHAT SNOOKER PLAYERS HAVE SAID ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH

MARK ALLEN, 2018 MASTERS CHAMPION

Some days I wake up and I just can’t be bothered, I don’t have the motivation to do anything. It does get very lonely when you’re looking at the four walls of a hotel room for most of the year. It can be a great life, but it can also be tough and I suspect there are others secretly battling away with this, feeling they have to deal with it on their own as I did for a long time.”

GRAEME DOTT, 2006 WORLD CHAMPION

As far as my depression is concerned, it is something I will probably have to live with for the rest of my life, but I recognise the warning signs now and know when it is time to go back to the doctor and ask for more tablets.

MARTIN GOULD, 2016 GERMAN MASTERS CHAMPION

I didn’t want to be there. I just turned up and thought I’d get the match out of the way. I had no expectation of winning, and I thought to myself: ‘I can’t keep doing this’. I would have been more than happy to drop off the tour, give up playing on the main tour and concentrate on playing some seniors stuff later on after giving myself a year or two to get back to normal.”

SHAUN MURPHY, 2005 WORLD CHAMPION

Some of the comments on social media are just vile. I often wonder how we got into this body shaming culture, when did we start bullying each other about the way we look? I wanted to do something about it. I decided on New Year’s Day that I would start highlighting people saying these things. I’m going to start calling it out when they are vicious and bullying you. If you aren’t mentally strong, these things can have a real knock-on effect. We’ve seen some really high profile celebrities take their own life. It is awful really.

MARK SELBY, 2014, 2016 AND 2017 WORLD CHAMPION

When I was going through it – and even now, I’m still on the medication to this day – I went to see the professional people and they were telling me to do things that you enjoy and try to keep your mind active. But it’s difficult when you go through times like this because the things you do enjoy you cannot go and do. The only thing you can do is speak to the professional people, speak to your family and cry for help and get them to help you as well.

GARY WILSON, 2019 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP SEMI-FINALIST

I’m just totally gone, including snooker. I can’t play at all. I feel the worst I’ve ever felt and can’t see a way back anymore. I let John (Higgins) back in and apologised for the foul as he was plumb in. All I could do. First world problems. Although I do feel depressed generally and I’m not one, as many will know, to play on stuff like that or use them words lightly.

 

And that’s all top players speaking out here. You have to wonder what those who struggle to earn a living, just put food on the table and pay their bills are going through.

An interview ahead of Ronnie’s last 16 match at the 2021 Masters

In an interview with Desmond Kane, Ronnie admits that he was knackered at the start of the 2020 UK Championship having overdone his running. That said he wants to keep running, as it makes him happier, and helps him to keep healthy and fit. At the start of the lockdown, he had been putting weight on, running helped him to get fit again. It’s about find a balance.

Here is the interview:

MASTERS SNOOKER 2021: ‘I WAS ABSOLUTELY GONE’ – RONNIE O’SULLIVAN REVEALS PLAN FOR YEAR AHEAD

Ronnie O’Sullivan plans to be on the button in 2021 after revealing he’s been inspired by former F1 world champion Jenson Button as he draws up his battleplan for success on the green baize. O’Sullivan begins his bid for a record eighth Masters title against Ding Junhui in the first round on Wednesday and is adamant he won’t repeat the mistakes he made before last month’s UK Championship.ROSWithCupUKC2020

A physically exhausted Ronnie O’Sullivan has revealed he was “absolutely gone” before suffering a shock early exit at the UK Championship – and plans to learn from his mistakes at the Masters in Milton Keynes.

The six-times defending world champion suffered a 6-5 defeat to world number 62 Alexander Ursenbacher in the last 64 of the UK last month despite watching his Swiss opponent contribute a highest break of only 67 over 11 frames.

O’Sullivan has explained how his addiction to running contributed to a shock downfall at the sport’s second biggest ranking event that he later described as “embarrassing”.

The record seven-times Masters winner admits he will only stay in the running at snooker’s major tournaments in the year ahead by cutting back on the hard yards away from the table.

That week, I managed to get 55 miles in,” said O’Sullivan ahead of his first-round match with 2011 champion Ding Junhui at the Marshall Arena. “I only managed 40 even when I was running brilliantly 10 years ago.

I’ve managed to build my volume up. I don’t run as fast now, but I go for a bit longer.

I ended up doing two 11 milers in one week which cranked the miles up, but towards the end of it I was absolutely shattered.

I WAS GONE AT THE UK, ABSOLUTELY GONE. I WAS LIKE ‘OH DEAR, WHAT HAVE I DONE’. I DON’T MAKE EXCUSES BECAUSE THE OTHER GUY PLAYED WELL, BUT PHYSICALLY I’D OVERDONE IT.

If you speak to an athlete that’s overtrained, it’s like a weird sort of tiredness.

You end up with a sort of a 36 or 48-hour bug so after that I thought I’d better go back to 36 or 40 miles because I had a couple of tournaments I wanted to play in and play well,” added O’Sullivan, who is 5-2 favourite with tournament sponsors Betfred for an eighth Masters title with world number one Judd Trump out due to coronavirus and former winners Neil Robertson and Mark Selby both knocked out.

Like anything, if you want to be good at it, you’ve got to be obsessive about it.

When it’s tournament week, I’ve got to learn that it’s okay to do five or six miles in the morning, but I don’t need to run 10 miles every day.

Once I get sucked in, I love it.

O’Sullivan – whose autobiography is aptly titled Running – has revealed he has been inspired by 2009 Formula One world champion Jenson Button’s approach to the triathlon that he married with his trophy-laden career behind the wheel.

Fellow British sporting icon Button won 15 races in F1 between 2000-2017, but once commented that “I am probably just as nervous, probably more nervous in a triathlon than an F1 race”.

My big priority is my running. I’ve got into half decent shape now,” said O’Sullivan. “When I started nine months ago, I was jogging, but now I’m running seven or eight miles which is nice.

I’m buzzing about that so my goal is to run some 10 milers, some half marathons, a bit like Jenson Button used to do with the triathlons. I want to take it seriously.

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I feel like I’ve got my injuries behind me so now it’s about how you prepare in the same way you prepare for the World Championship or the Masters in snooker. You’ve really got to be on it day in, day out.”

O’Sullivan has quit smoking in his bid to help his longevity after becoming the second oldest winner of the world title last August at the age of 44 behind fellow six-times champion Ray Reardon with an 18-8 win over Kyren Wilson at the Crucible in Sheffield.

He remains the youngest winner of the Masters when he was 19 in 1995, but could become its oldest winner in the 47th year of the sport’s biggest invitational event.

The record 37-times ranking event winner has confirmed he plans to compete at the Masters, World Championship, Players Championship and Tour Championship in a schedule of at least “eight or ten” events in 2021 as he bids to keep pace with the field.

My main focus at my age is good health. I’m 45 and haven’t smoked for nine months because of the running,” he said. “I’m enjoying the benefits of running. My mental health is in a much better place, I don’t smoke and I just feel a lot happier.

That is number one. That has to stay no matter what. Other than that, I want to try to play 10 events in the whole year. I don’t enjoy playing week in, week out.

I don’t want to do that so for me I want to play between eight and ten events maximum spend more time at home and the events that I do play in make sure I can meet the local running club so I can go out running and train like I would do at home.

“That’s really the goals for me. I’ll play the Masters and see what happens with the other tournaments. I’ll probably play the Coral events that I’ve qualified for and the World Championship.

All the other ones, I’ll decide later on whether I feel like I need the practice or not.”

Desmond Kane

Ronnie is Eurosport’s Sports Personality of the 2020 year

Eurosport have run their own poll about sports personalities of the year 2020 and here are the results:

RONNIE O’SULLIVAN WINS EUROSPORT SPORTSPERSON OF THE YEAR

Ronnie O’Sullivan has won the Eurosport British Sportsperson of the Year. Marcus Rashford was recognised for his deeds on and off the pitch, and Formula One record-breaker Lewis Hamilton placed third. Read on for the rest of the placings for the remaining five spots voted for by you. 

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Ronnie O’Sullivan was the overwhelming winner of Eurosport’s British Sportsperson of the Year.

The 44-year-old snooker legend received almost half (44%) of the total votes cast, shared between eight of the best of British sport.

2020 was the year when O’Sullivan finally ended his wait of seven years for another World Championship, beating Ding Junhui, Mark Williams, Mark Selby and Kyren Wilson along the way.

In second place was Marcus Rashford (15%), who earned his recognition for his activity off the pitch as much as his deeds on it. Rashford was at the heart of a campaign to secure vulnerable British children free school meals over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, in the face of sustained opposition from the British government.

Rashford also has 21 goals in the 2020 calendar year and is on course to beat his 22-goal record if he continues his current scoring rate for the 2020/21 season. He also has received an MBE for his services to children, aged just 23.

In third (12%), Lewis Hamilton won his fourth consecutive drivers’ championship – his seventh so far – and broke Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 Grand Prix victories. Away from the track, he donated to help fight back against the damage done by wildfires in Australia, and spearheaded the Black Lives Matter movement amongst the Formula One paddock.

Jonathan Rea placed fourth (9%) after another dominant season in the World Superbike championship. The Northern Ireland racer was on every podium but one after the coronavirus-enforced restart, and won his sixth straight world championship.

In joint fourth (also 9%) was Judd Trump. While O’Sullivan won the Worlds, Trump pulled off victories in the Northern Ireland Open, the English Open, the Gibraltar Open, Players Championship and German Masters. At just 31 there is almost certainly much more to come.

Sixth place went to football Lucy Bronze (5%), who enjoyed another superb season. The 29-year-old England international won the Champions League and French domestic double with Lyon, and then moved back to the Women’s Super League to join Manchester City in September.

Tao Geoghegan Hart (3%) capped a fine year off with his seventh place recognition. After Geraint Thomas had to withdraw from Team Ineos’ Giro d’Italia challenge, it was the 25-year-old rider who stepped up to shock almost everyone to seize victory. In what may be a less frenetic season in 2021, there is no clear limit to his potential.

Fellow cyclist Lizzie Deignan also impressed, and earned an eight place spot (2%) after topping the UCI World Rankings, in part due to victories at La Course and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

RESULTS

  • Ronnie O’Sullivan – 44%
  • Marcus Rashford – 15%
  • Lewis Hamilton – 12%
  • Jonathan Rea – 9%
  • Judd Trump – 9%
  • Lucy Bronze – 5%
  • Tao Geoghegan Hart – 3%
  • Lizzie Deignan – 2%

Congratulations Ronnie!

I believe that Ronnie’s emphatic win as well as Judd Trump’s presence as 5th in the list shows that Eurosport, not BBC, is now the main snooker channel, even in the UK. It really has become the “House of Snooker”. Well done Eurosport!

Desmond Kane reflects upon Ronnie’s return to the top … and gets quite lyrical😉

As we have a day off at the 2020 UK Championship … You feel bored?  Missing the snooker? here is something to read.

UK CHAMPIONSHIP 2020: ‘I FEEL LIKE I’M KING OF MY CASTLE’ – RONNIE O’SULLIVAN ON EPIC RETURN TO TOP

BY DESMOND KANE

A revitalised Ronnie O’Sullivan has found a fresh passion for potting and is performing better than ever in his fourth decade at the snooker summit. The six-times defending world champion tells Desmond Kane how he potted and plotted his return to glory in the year of the pandemic. His year could yet get better as he targets an eighth UK Championship at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.

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For Ronnie O’Sullivan, the world is not enough. Not when he has fallen in love with his time-served passion for potting all over again. At the venerable snooker age of 44, a juncture when most professionals are on the wane as former glories frustratingly fade into the framed fug of yesteryear and dewy-eyed folklore, the world champion seems to just be getting warmed up.

“I wish I could have enjoyed playing like this earlier on in my career. I’ve had so much fun,” he said after losing 9-7 to Judd Trump in an epic Northern Ireland Open final having contributed two centuries and five breaks over 50 in a narrow defeat.

While Trump is world number one after lifting a whopping 11 ranking events over the past two years, the big one eluded him last season. It is a rejuvenated O’Sullivan who again holds snooker’s most coveted prize six years after his fifth Crucible triumph in Sheffield.

His status as the greatest player of all time was already secured due to his astonishing longevity and an incomparable mastering of his modern art form. His ongoing brilliance in brandishing a cue is perhaps comparable in genius to Pablo Picasso clutching a paintbrush and projecting an inspired soul.

O’Sullivan specialises in snooker surrealism beyond the confines of a 12ft by 6ft table. His next canvas is the UK Championship in Milton Keynes where he hopes to splash some colour over a record eighth trophy. It would be a special end to a year that has witnessed O’Sullivan conquer the Crucible while searching for a cue action that has stood the test of time.

The big events are the yardstick, the three things that never change in snooker,” O’Sullivan tells Eurosport. “That is the only true measure of where you stand in the game. The important records are the World Championship, the Masters and the UK. Obviously how many times you have won them marks you out. Jack Nicklaus has got 18 majors in golf, six of them came in the Masters, five in the US PGA, four US Opens and three British Opens.

“That applies the same to snooker. So, to have the record of winning 20 majors, six world titles, seven UKs and seven Masters – I’ve got three out of the four important records. Hendry still has seven world titles, but I’m not greedy. I’m happy to have hit them spots and get the job done in the important events.”

THE PEOPLE AROUND ME SAY I’M CRAZY, ‘WHY ARE YOU BOTHERING ANYMORE?’

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Snooker is about the narrative, growing with the story. It doesn’t have to be fast and furious,” the six-times world champion Steve Davis once remarked. O’Sullivan has become the main protagonist of that narrative.

Such has been the enduring, ongoing adroitness of Rocket Ronnie, it is easy to forget that he had yet to win his first world title before he overcame his close friend and fierce foe John Higgins 18-14 in the 2001 final aged 25 at the Crucible Theatre. Yet here he is two decades on, prowling the table like he is in the first flush of youth, like a fictional melding of Fast Eddie Felson and Benjamin Button of the old green baize, playing out a generation game with his generation like no other sportsman.

The angles have not and will not wither him. Like the formidable Welsh potter Cliff Wilson, he is not one for holding back when the mood takes him as a timeless trend-setter. There remains a youthfulness, a creative ambition and a vital sense of adventure about his play that truly is something to behold in any field of sporting excellence. In any field of professional sport.

Higgins – the four-times Crucible champion from Scotland – himself made from girders, turned professional alongside O’Sullivan 28 years ago and once said that he knew his fellow ‘Class of 92’ graduate was destined for greatness when he first witnessed him at the age of 15 because he gave off a glow like “the Ready Brek man”.

Despite yearning for the cathedral city of York, traditional home of the UK Championship, O’Sullivan has been relocated and reinvigorated behind closed doors in Milton Keynes, his self-belief emboldened by claiming the World Championship with an 18-8 final filleting of Kyren Wilson, a player 16 years younger, in a quite August. His sixth title came after a six-year wait in potting purgatory.

“Playing snooker, most of the people around me say I’m crazy, why are you bothering anymore?” he tells Eurosport. “But I always say to them, it isn’t going to be forever. While I can do it with one arm and one leg and still compete, I’ll play snooker. Listen, I have a bit of fun with it.

“The way I approach it is if I get to a tournament and don’t feel like it, it doesn’t matter if I win or lose. But there are times when I really, really love it and I want to play and I’ll put 100 percent effort in. It all depends on what side of the bed you get out of sometimes. I just let a bad day turn into a really bad day and get home a little bit earlier. But when the good days are there, I keep going with those ones.”

The good ones continue to vastly outnumber the bad ones for O’Sullivan, particularly in the latter half of his career. He continues to find fresh ground with endless possibilities and prospects in a career trajectory which is nowhere near its final denouement, totalling a record 37 ranking titles including seven Masters and seven UKs to go with the half a dozen world crowns snagged over four pristine decades of play. Snared in his teens, 20s, 30s and 40s, it is quite a dynasty of World Snooker Tour’s Triple Crown series. Sometimes it seems as though there is nowhere he hasn’t spread his green baize gospel amid a salivating fan base which transcends the sport.

Put quite simply, the opposition are nowhere near being good enough to retire him.

It is easy to gush when you study O’Sullivan’s majestic levels of form that has wrought over 1050 centuries, the most of any player in history. It is also difficult to suggest the year of the pandemic has provided him with some sort of snooker renaissance, because he has never really gone away.

ON TOP OF THE WORLD AGAIN

Much of O’Sullivan’s appetite for the game has been sated by making good on his promise to right the wrongs of 2014, a year that seemed to signal the death knell on his hopes of joining Davis and Ray Reardon as a six-times world champion. After his latest rousing victory, matching Stephen Hendry’s scintillating seven-year stretch between 1990 and 1999 is no longer a foolhardy notion.

During coronavirus lockdown, O’Sullivan ended up sporting a Merv Hughes-type moustache, but was also busy explaining to Hendry on Instagram that he had real regrets about the past. “The match I’d like to play again would be Selby in the 2014 final because I’d have played it differently,” he said in June. “I would have done everything I could to not get bogged down and keep the game open. When I looked back, I thought I’d got sucked into his game. It wasn’t until after that game that I thought, ‘yeah I might lose to you and I probably will lose to you again, but it’s going to be on my terms’.

It was perhaps written in the Crucible light bulbs then that he would again confront the three-times world champion Selby this year with the whole shooting match on the table before O’Sullivan decided to go all in.

O’Sullivan came into their semi-final arguably as second favourite despite wins over Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, Ding Junhui and Mark Williams on his sojourn to face the only player to defeat him in world, Masters and UK finals.

It was his first experience of the fabled one-table set-up at the venue in over half a decade having lost two quarter-finals to Ding Junhui and Stuart Bingham, two last-16 matches to Ali Carter and Barry Hawkins respectively and a shocking first-round amateur defeat to James Cahill a year earlier when the magnitude of the moment seemed to visibly disturb him.

The 44th staging of the delayed World Championship was by common consent an elongated, excruciating event that looked beyond his attention span if not his ability. Selby was once described by O’Sullivan as “the torturer” and the sport’s most taut and tortuous contest of the year would provide him with a road out of potting perdition.

O’Sullivan was staring into the abyss trailing 16-14 in a contest that saw Selby’s tactical supremacy largely dominate as he led at various junctures – most notably 13-9 on the final day. He was on the cusp of another crushing failure against a hardened, no-frills professional nicknamed the ‘Jester from Leicester’ with little scope for humour on the table.

Selby had decimated his dreams when he recovered from trailing 10-5 to win the world final 18-14 in 2014, a defeat built on starving O’Sullivan of chances and momentum. He forced him to wilt and wait amid a potting purgatory that left O’Sullivan wondering if he still possessed the minerals to conquer the green baize equivalent of K2.

O’Sullivan performed in fits and starts in their latest Crucible joust, with both hands and haste, yet still translated desire into fulfilment with his usual élan, mischief, nonchalance but most poignantly an unwillingness to bend and break, to yield in time. First in, best dressed. Faced with certain defeat, O’Sullivan was an Englishman who went up the side of a mountain but came down a hill as his long game suddenly became impregnable with several blistering pots and awe-inspiring breaks of 138, 71 and 64 in three prodigious closing frames. Then came one of the most telling safety shots in Crucible history helping win him the final before the final with a rousing finale.

His thoughts of early summer and his promises to repair the damage done by his previous scarring loss to Selby were ripe on the vine in the autumn of his aspirations.

At some point you think, I’ve been here for three days. He’s got the better of me and if it continues going like this, he’s probably going to win this match,” recalls O’Sullivan. “I needed to try to win it on my terms. The only way I was going to do that was trying to play the perfect snooker really. Score big breaks and pot well – I only needed to find a good 30 or 40 minutes really. I needed three quick frames and I could get the job done. Back to the wall, and sometimes you find your best snooker when you are put in that situation.

NO SLOWING DOWN

UKC2020-ROS-4

In the first 19 years of his gilded professional career between 1992 until 2011, O’Sullivan lifted 11 of the Triple Crown events on terrestrial TV – three world titles, four Masters and four UKs. In the past eight years, he has carried off one every year raising his total to 20 with another three worlds, three Masters and three UKs. All this was achieved beyond the age of 35, a juncture where players are supposed to be married with kids and slowing down. O’Sullivan has never taken his eyes off the balls.

Nor has he slowed down. He is vying with the Thai speed merchant Un-Nooh as the sport’s fastest player with an average shot time under 18 seconds, mainly because his cue ball control is tighter than two coats of paint. His imaginative outlook has buffeted him from the ravages of time with his natural ambition to attack, even in safety exchanges, a key to his powers of endurance. When you consider he also sat out the 2012/13 season between his fourth and fifth world titles, this is a startling level of commitment and consistency.

Davis was on his last legs as a tournament winner when he won the 1997 Masters at the age of 39 with a 10-8 win over O’Sullivan while Hendry’s 36th and final ranking event came at the 2005 Malta Cup only weeks after turning 36. For Hendry and Davis, the hardest part was letting go as their dominance faltered.

O’Sullivan has revelled in punditry work for Eurosport over the past six years, analysis nicely book-ended by his world titles, but he knows where he gets his kicks.

O’Sullivan concedes being in the heat of the battle provides an inimitable rush that cannot be emulated by pills or thrills. For O’Sullivan, the action is the juice in a sport that titillates and torments him.

I think every guy deserves to know what it feels like to have a 10-inch ****. I’ve probably had that feeling for quite a long time now. I think I’ve been fortunate in that area to experience that. When I’m buzzing on the snooker table, the sensation feels amazing.

By playing snooker, I feel like I’m the king of my castle,” says O’Sullivan, who toyed with the idea of appearing in Gwrych Castle in Wales in I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here before opting for more meaningful stars at the UK Championship. “That’s the drug really, it’s not the money, it’s not the prestige, it’s just that feeling that I’ve got the best **** out of everybody else.

AN EIGHTH UK TITLE?

UKC2020-ROS-5

His first major title came when he usurped the then unparalleled Hendry 10-6 to win his first UK Championship at the Guild Hall in Preston in November 1993 before washing up on This Morning with Richard and Judy the following day, such was the fascination with his attributes, audaciousness and speed of thought at such a tender age. For the record, the teenager fighting out of Chigwell also defeated Alan McManus, Ken Doherty, Steve Davis and Darren Morgan on his route to a celebrated victory 27 years ago. McManus – who became Masters winner only three months later in 1994 – describes O’Sullivan as “the most talented sportsman in the world” these days. Aged 17 years and 358 days, a star was born. O’Sullivan remains the youngest winner of a ranking event four decades on.

He will turn 45 a day before the UK Championship final concludes on 6 December, a match he will hope to contest as he pursues further garlands in the sport’s second most important ranking event. His campaign began with a quickfire 6-0 victory over Leo Fernandez which took little over an hour.

Why such an evergreen talent has never been nominated for the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year is a tragic indictment on human powers of observation, but hope springs eternal this year. In the year of the pandemic, face muzzles and no fans, O’Sullivan has found himself in splendid isolation in his return to glory.

In the epic book Paradise Lost, John Milton concluded that it is “better to rule in hell than serve in heaven” or words to that effect. O’Sullivan will not notice his surroundings if he clasps an eighth UK title to his bosom at the Marshall Arena in MK, a venue he gloomily compares to potting in prison in Covid-19 times.

It should be pointed out that O’Sullivan seems to be in a wonderfully positive frame of mind playing frames. He has battled the black dog of depression, but snooker has provided a constant and a cathartic ally amid his travails which somehow saw him go three years without a ranking event win between the Shanghai Masters in September 2009 and the German Masters in February 2012. At that time, John Higgins even feared O’Sullivan was not far from retirement. How times have changed.

Professor Steve Peters – a specialist in sports psychiatry – continues to play a key role in helping O’Sullivan keep his mental compass pointing in the right direction. His victory at the World Championship was a triumph for mind over matter when you consider he trashed a Crucible dressing room in 2016 and was driven to a hospital in London for treatment after his win over David Gilbert in the first round.

That’s why I always call it snooker depression because you can quickly go down this hole of searching for something and then forgetting,” he explains. “Your mental side goes and as Steve Peters says about your inner chimp, the chimp is running around Tesco. You wouldn’t want that chimpanzee running around Tesco would you? That’s what happens to a lot of snooker players. When their head is gone, they are like crazy animals. How do you manage that mind to think ‘Hold on, this is getting a bit out of hand now, I can’t behave like this, I need to draw it in’.

The sometimes-tortured genius of O’Sullivan performs snooker rather than play it. He is a sculptor as much as a sportsman, perhaps blissfully unaware of the beauty of his craft, but the O’Sullivan Opus remains a work in progress. Will it ever be finished?

Snooker was his first love and may end up his last. The enduring fascination of O’Sullivan’s incompleteness will perhaps continue to endure long beyond a turbulent reign that has provided more mayhem and magic than the most manic of monarchies.

The old king is alive, long live the king.

Desmond Kane

 

Ronnie “devastated” that the 2020 UK Championship won’t be held in York

Ronnie has been speaking to Desmond Kane about his disappointment that the 2020 UK Championship is being moved to Milton Keynes.

RONNIE O’SULLIVAN ‘DEVASTATED’ UK CHAMPIONSHIP HAS BEEN MOVED FROM HIS FAVOURITE CITY

Ronnie O’Sullivan admits he is “devastated” that the UK Championship has been moved from his favourite city of York to Milton Keynes later this month due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The reigning world champion has won four of his seven UK titles at the Barbican in York including victories in 2001, 2014, 2017 and 2018 that saw him overtake Steve Davis as the most prolific UK winner of all time.

By Desmond Kane

RonnieUKChampion

World champion Ronnie O’Sullivan admits he is “devastated” the UK Championship will not be going ahead in his favourite city of York later this month due to the global health pandemic.

Due to strict UK government health guidelines, the 2020/21 season has been shifted behind closed doors to a temporary set-up at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes with players subjected to regular Covid-19 testing at events.

The European Masters, English Open, Championship League and this week’s Champion of Champions event have all been staged in Milton Keynes with the UK Championship set to join the Northern Irish Open, Scottish Open and World Grand Prix in being moved near the home of English League One football club MK Dons before Christmas.

“This year’s Betway UK Championship will be staged in Milton Keynes for the first time, in line with Government Covid-19 regulations,” said tournament organisers World Snooker Tour in a statement on Wednesday.

“One of snooker’s most prestigious events and part of the Triple Crown Series, the tournament has been staged at York Barbican since 2011. However this year all rounds will take place at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes, running from November 23rd to December 6th.”

O’Sullivan lifted his sixth world title in Sheffield in August with only a few hundred fans admitted at the Crucible for the final two days, but says playing every tournament behind closed doors in one town is not ideal for the sport.
The seven-times UK champion would prefer to compete at the KT Leisure Centre in Crawley – a venue he berated for smelling of urine at the English Open in 2018 – than being forced to travel to every tournament in Milton Keynes.

“It is what it is, but at some point you want the fans to come back because without the fans it is hard,” said O’Sullivan, who became the youngest winner of a ranking event at the age of 17 when he defeated Stephen Hendry 10-6 in the UK final in 1993. “Listen, you feed off them sometimes and it is nice to come out and play in front of a crowd.

“It’s a shame we aren’t going back to York. I’m devastated because that is my favourite city in the whole country, even in the whole world,” the world number two told Eurosport.

“To not be going there and back to Milton Keynes – that’s just as hard in many ways as having to just keep going to Milton Keynes.

“I think I’d even take a little tournament at Crawley over Milton Keynes.”

WST chairman Barry Hearn is adamant the UK Championship will return to the York Barbican next year.

“We are disappointed not to be going to York Barbican for the Betway UK Championship this year because it is a fantastic venue in a wonderful city,” said Hearn. “The people of York can rest assured that we fully intend to be back in York next year and in fact we have already agreed dates for 2021 and 2022 with the venue.

“Following extensive consultation with the UK Government and the relevant public health bodies, the decision has been made to stage all matches in Milton Keynes this time. It is an ideal venue, we are working with an exceptional team there and we have proved over the past few months that we can stage major tournaments there, involving 128 players, safely and successfully.

“In the circumstances we face today, our crucial objective is to keep our events going, provide competitive action and prize money for our players, and top class sport for the many millions of television viewers around the world who are in need of inspiration.”

That state of mind will not help Ronnie as it seems that we will be stuck in Milton Keynes for some more time. I wouldn’t be surprised if it lasted for most of the season.

Some serious / nice / fun Ronnie stuff

Let’s start with the serious stuff.

Ronnie spoke to Eurosport about Marcus Rashford and his campaign to help disadvantaged children who suffer from hunger in the UK.

RONNIE O’SULLIVAN: ‘MARCUS RASHFORD HAS RUN RINGS AROUND GOVERNMENT, THEY’VE GOT IT BADLY WRONG’

By Desmond Kane

Ronnie O’Sullivan has joined the growing chorus of support for Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford’s “fantastic” campaign for free school meals. The six-times defending world snooker champion feels it should be used as part of a wider movement to end the scourge of hunger and homelessness in the UK.

The superficial thirst for success in professional sport is left trailing by the very real hunger for social justice. The very real chance to affect meaningful change in society.
Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford and world snooker champion Ronnie O’Sullivan are among the favourites for this year’s Sports Personality of the Year award – and both sing from the same hymn sheet in calling for an end to child poverty in the UK.

Scoring goals, potting balls or holing putts for a living means little when you consider what is going on in the wider world at large. Real drama looms far away from playing games.

Marcus Rasford petition tweet

Rashford was awarded an MBE for his campaign to extend free school meals for the most vulnerable during the summer holidays, but has so far been rebuffed in his bid to see the government support his calls for an extension until Easter 2021.
In the year of a global pandemic, O’Sullivan has applauded the England forward’s passion in his campaign for free school meals during school holidays, but can’t understand why hunger and homelessness has not been properly addressed in the UK.

“I think the campaign is fantastic. It is brilliant,” said O’Sullivan. “I’ve been there and know what it is like to have to rely on free school dinners.
“This is very important to families up and down the country. No kid or person should go hungry in this country I believe.

“Homelessness has always been a big bugbear of mine. Why do some people have so much yet some people can’t even get a sandwich or a cup of tea?

“I could never quite fathom that out or how that was allowed to happen.
“Unless people like Marcus Rashford stand up and speak for these families who are struggling then their voice doesn’t get heard.

“I think he’s used his platform, especially for someone so young to come out and speak and be so passionate and proactive in his campaign.”

Rashford has submitted a petition that has attracted almost one million signatures forcing it to be debated in parliament.

O’Sullivan feels the government should “admit defeat”, change their position and make Rashford the focal point of the campaign to eradicate child poverty.

“I think the government have really got this one badly wrong. If I was advising the government, the first thing I’d be telling them is to get Marcus Rashford in to talk to him and be wanting to work with him,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport.

“We want him representing us as a government and us as a country. We want the whole world to see what a brilliant job we are doing.

“At the moment, they’ve got it wrong. The best thing they can do is admit defeat and admit we can all be teachable.

“Someone like Marcus Rashford is running rings around them at the moment. If they want the embarrassment to stop then the smartest thing to do is bring him on side.”

O’Sullivan – who returns to action at the Champion of Champions event in Milton Keynes next week – is also dismayed to see investment being spent on railway projects such as HS2 when there are people living below the breadline.
Marcus Rashford tweet - poors have no voice

“I think at the moment, it’s about unity. When you watch what is going on in America, there is so much division,” said the seven-times UK and Masters winner.
“That’s never really a good thing. Hopefully as a country at this time, it’s about uniting and supporting the vulnerable.

“With the free school meals, they can find millions to get help you get from the North of England to the South of England 20 minutes quicker yet you can’t find £20 million for some school dinners and an extra £5m for the people of Liverpool and Manchester at this time.

Tweet coldplay support Marcus Rashford

“You think something is quite not right there and again wonder where are we at? How can you not find that money? Yet you can find £100 million for a train to get you from north to south quicker.
“This is a time to support the vulnerable. A lot of people are going through hardship at the moment, and this is when you want your government and country to support you.”

Ronnie was with Jason Francis at the Fan Cave doing a “social distancing” signing whilst answering fans questions.

This was shared live by Jason on Facebook. The actual footage starts after about 12 minutes.

So, Ronnie will play next at the Champion of Champions, Northern Ireland Open, and the UK Championship.

He also names his Mount Rushmore of snooker. It’s “Joe Davis, Stephen Hendry, John Higgins and himself” or, not taking himself into account “Joe Davis, Stephen Hendry, John Higgins and Steve Davis”

This Mount Rushmore thing isn’t a new idea… here is David Hendon’s take on it nine years ago on the Snooker Scene blog

25.10.11

MADE OF STONE

The Mount Rushmore national memorial was carved into the South Dakotan mountain side 70 years ago to commemorate four legendary US presidents.

What if snooker were to have a similar monument to the players who have best served and represented the sport?

Of course, it isn’t going to happen unless some lunatic is let loose with a chisel on Snowdon, but that doesn’t mean we can’t discuss who should appear on such a memorial.

The rules: there is only room for four players. In fact that’s the only rule.

So here are the main contenders, considered objectively, not based on personal favourites…

Joe Davis was the father of professional snooker. It was he who saw its potential in the age of billiards. It was he who began the World Championship, buying the trophy still presented to this day using half the original entry fees from the inaugural championship in 1927.

Davis won the world title 15 times in succession before retiring from the professional game in 1946. His style of play was the textbook followed by many who took up snooker in his wake.

Ray Reardon was the most successful player of the 1970s as the professional game was revived and started to receive TV attention.

He was six times a world champion, having not had the chance to play professionally at the early age modern players now do.

Alex Higgins was a firebrand and a rebel and these characteristics, coupled with his electrifying style of play, brought a new audience to snooker, attracted television coverage and sponsorship and helped lead to a burgeoning professional circuit.

In the snooker soap opera of the 1980s, he was a much loved villain who put the sport on the front pages and kept up the remarkable levels of interest.

Steve Davis lived a much more placid life and was completely dedicated to being the best, which he was for a decade.

Davis has won more titles than anyone else and is still capable, into his 50s, of producing high quality performances. As an ambassador for snooker, he remains unsurpassed.

Jimmy White’s enduring popularity and cheerful optimism in the face of many knocks means he is still a draw more than 30 years after turning professional.

Never a world champion, he won ten ranking titles, including the UK Championship, plus the Masters and has provided many a fan with the sort of emotional rollercoaster ride which means they remain loyal to him long after his peak.

Stephen Hendry raised playing standards and ushered in a new era of attacking snooker. He has won more of what matters than any other player.

There were 90 ranking events played in the 1990s. Hendry won 27 of them, just under a third of the total. He is still more than 100 centuries ahead of the field.

Ronnie O’Sullivan is a rare natural talent whose brand of entertaining snooker has drawn many new fans to the game during the last 15 years.

Perhaps the best break builder snooker has ever seen, his many controversies have only added to his status as flawed genius but his achievements stand for themselves.

John Higgins has proved himself as the toughest match-player of the current time, with four world titles to his name and an almost innate knowledge of every aspect of the game.

Brilliant under pressure, he remains every bit as difficult to beat as when he first emerged two decades ago.

I realise some will argue for others, such as Fred Davis, John Spencer and Mark Williams, but this is the list from which I will select my four.

The first face who earns a place in our imaginary mountainside is Steve Davis.

It is hard to believe now the attention he had in the 1980s, when snooker bestrode TV sport like a colossus – and Steve did the same on the green baize.

He never went off the rails, never shirked from his professional responsibilities and, despite the odd famous slip-up, just kept on winning.

He could have walked away happy with hit lot but, such is his love of the game, that he carried on and is still delighting fans now, as well as providing inspiration for a whole group of much younger players.

Davis was always the model player to look up to. He is to snooker what Jack Nicklaus is to golf.

The second face the carvers had better set about constructing is that of Hendry, who decided from a frighteningly young age that he was going to be the best.

Sport thrives on the fluff and intrigue that surrounds it, but the true test of greatness is achievement. For this alone Hendry deserves his place, but the quality of snooker he has produced down the years speaks for itself.

My third face will be that of Alex Higgins. He didn’t win as much as Reardon but he had an alchemy that meant he was an absolutely vital figure to snooker’s growth and development.

People admired the Reardons and Spencers but they loved Higgins. Many hated him too, but nobody who watched him play could fail to be excited by his charisma, his shot making and his theatrical style of death-or-glory snooker.

So one face left to be carved and, for me, it should be O’Sullivan.

It was Joe Davis’s misfortune not to be playing in the colour television age. Snooker owes him a huge debt of gratitude but that is not the whole story.

He created the professional game but he also killed it when he retired but continued to play exhibitions. Everyone knew the best player in the world wasn’t in the World Championship and it was eventually discontinued for a decade before being revived, largely due to the efforts of Rex Williams.

In truth, professional snooker had two beginnings. The first was under the auspices of Davis in 1926. The second was in 1969 when the World Championship reverted from challenge system to knock-out and Pot Black began. It was this latter beginning which was more significant to the sport as it is today.

Reardon’s modern day tally of world titles was equalled by Steve Davis and surpassed by Hendry. He may have won more than Alex Higgins but Higgins’s contribution off the table cannot be overlooked.

The only mark against White is that he never won the world title, which has to count him out.

John Higgins is a great player but ultimately O’Sullivan has been responsible for keeping interest levels up in an era in which snooker’s survival as a top level sport has been under threat following the loss of the tobacco millions.

New viewers around the world watching snooker for the first time on TV have been drawn in by O’Sullivan, whose talent and changeable personality have created a heady mix and sustained the game in the media. He is, by any definition, a star.

So my four for snooker’s Mount Rushmore are Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry, Alex Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Something tells me not everyone will agree with these choices.

I agreed with David at the time. Today I would kick out Alex Higgins and put Joe Davis there instead. Of course it’s all about why, in your opinion, a player should be included in that snooker pantheon. Form me it’s about a combination of their achievements and their contribution to the evolution of the game.

For me, it’s about what they brought to our sport

Joe Davis transformed a game into a sport. He set up the foundations of a professional approach to snooker.

Steve Davis was the first “complete professional” in the current understanding of what a professional sportsperson should be. He was dedicated, a student of his sport, and someone who paid attention to every detail.

Stephen Hendry started a revolution. He forever changed the way the game is played with  his extremely aggressive, attacking approach and the way he delelopped the pack from the blue at the first opportunity.

Ronnie brought Stephen Hendry’s game to a new level, whilst also integrating a very strong tactical side. He was probably the first player to gain true international superstar status strongly contributing to growing the popularity of snooker beyond the British/Irish traditional hotbed.